When, two to three decades from now, I am sitting in my office, study or at a family dinner table looking back to my days in the United States, one of the things I will cherish the most is the opportunity to have been here to witness pivotal moments of notable changes, when a new fresh nation was born out of a tired vestige of the old.
From what I read, the last time something as significant as a popular uprising by citizens to demand change came about was in the 60s during the civil rights movement. From what we see around every day these days, those days – or at least something close to it and equally significant – are back. It showed itself first through the Tea Party movements in 2009, and now through the message of the Occupy ____ protesters that have taken their message to major cities around America.
I was privileged to sit through one of the first sessions of the Occupy Edwardsville meetings today on campus. The movement which started as a reaction to the Oligarchy of Wall Street and unfair income disparity in the country has spread all around the country and is beginning to embody the disenchantment that most people feel about the direction of the country. Today’s event, being campus based, was more educational and brain-storming than anything else, but it was not any less significant.
I do not know a full list of their demands, but one of the major recent successes of the movement so far has been to force the Bank of America to reverse its decision to charge card users $5 monthly for debit card use. Another one is to change the national conversation from shrinking the government size to equitable living opportunities. Today’s meeting was open and democratic, allowing members and spectators ask questions and participate in brainstorming sessions to fashion reasonable and workable manifesto. I saw some professors in the crowd as well as students. At the back of the gathering were two cops standing and paying attention.
American politics, I have found, is one of the most fascinating in the world. This citizen opportunity for social and political change through a democratic means is not only stimulating, it is one of the country’s most admirable characteristics. All of this play out even in spite of obvious regrettable consequences of all mass action: infiltration by anarchists who want everything to fall apart as soon as possible, to no known end.
I see a new country emerging – as it always does season after season, and I again find myself tied to it. The news of my coming here got to me on the same day that the country elected its first black president. Being here at the crossroads of its changing environment provides for me a boon: a vantage point from which to contemplate the past and the present, while interacting with a new dynamic future of which I now find myself an integral part.